VIRGINIA, THROUGH WEST VIRGINIA and into KENTUCKY – Not much to report these days. Before leaving Chippokes, Michelle and the kids went to a nearby farm and picked blueberries and corn to take with them while Greg got the camper ready to pull out.
Then they drove. A lot.
But that evening they ate steak! And corn! And had a nice campsite!
“Yes…” Greg said, “And right after we arrived at that nice campsite, along came a park naturalist with a stuffed owl, who was advertising their programs to Laurel…”
“…and we felt sorry for her,” Michelle continued, “the naturalist, not Laurel — because she really didn’t know what she was walking into here.”
See, Laurel knows about owls. The kid knows a lot about owls. You could say she’s just a LITTLE obsessed with birds of prey in general. So as the naturalist quizzed Laurel, the naturalist herself learned a lot. Really. A lot.
“But the coolest thing about her,” Michelle noted later, “was that she was OPEN to learning a lot. She said several times that she was learning so much from Laurel that Laurel should come give the program. And you know what else? When she didn’t know the answer to something, she ADMITTED IT, which is more than most people are willing to do. That was awesome.”
That evening, Michelle put the kids to work shucking the corn…willingly.
“Yeah, that’s a little ambiguous,” Michelle critiqued. “Make a note that Michelle is always willing to put the kids to work. What you mean is that the kids were willing to shuck corn.”
Meanwhile, Greg cooked up the steaks and they had a very nice meal. The flies weren’t even too bad.
“For once,” Greg grumbled.
Day Thirteen involved more driving. Lots more driving. That is, in fact, pretty much all the Family did. Just after entering West Virginia, they stopped to eat leftovers from B’s Barbecue back in North Carolina.
“It’s far more tolerable to eat in a tin can in a parking lot at 75 degrees than it is at 95 degrees,” Michelle observed. “Of course, it helps when the food is so good.”
After lunch the Family resignedly drove back to the interstate. But wait! The monotony was about to be broken!
One mile east of the St. Alban’s exit on I-64, the Family was driving along when all of a sudden…
Note: Sorry, readers, we don’t have audio here. Imagine the sound of a rock being thrown into a metal trash can.
“What the fuck was that??!!” Greg exclaimed.
Wide-eyed, Michelle responded, “Ohmygod, I don’t have any idea,”
So they pulled off to the side of the interstate (“which gives me the serious heebie-jeebies,” Michelle noted) and inspected the camper, Michelle cringing the whole time, certain someone would plow into them. Unable to find the cause of the noise, they climbed back in the cab of the truck, puzzled, but then Michelle looked in the rearview mirror.
“I see it!” she gasped.
And there it was.
See, just before the BANG!, Michelle and Greg saw a mower doing some tree trimming along the side of the interstate. And sure enough, it was just as they passed that the BANG! occurred. They’d kicked something up right as the Family had driven by and damaged the camper.
Well, seeing as Michelle is not one to enjoy hanging out by the side of an interstate, they pulled back into traffic while debating their next move.
“I didn’t know that they’d do anything about it,” Michelle said, “but I figured it was worth a try, so Greg pulled off at the rest area just up the road and I started making phone calls.
“First,” she reported, “I called the West Virginia Division of Highways and spoke with Lisa, who was SO AWESOME. I explained the situation and she told me precisely what to do. Trouble is, when I called the number she gave me, they gave me another number, and the people there gave me another number. It’s good to know that Miss
ouri state government and West Virginia state government operate in much the same manner. It’s also good that I’m so stubborn and persistent.”
“Well, maybe in this situation,” said Greg.
“Just what are you trying to say, smart guy?” asked Michelle.
“Oh, nothing. Nothing,” Greg responded.
“Uh-huh. That’s what I thought. Anyway,” she continued, “only once did I get mad enough at the person on the other end to let my meanness show.”
That conversation went something like this:
Operator: [some unintelligible greeting]
Michelle: [explained situation for third time]
Operator: [impatiently sighhhhhhing because she can’t believe she has to deal with these Missouri Morons] Well, ma’am, you need to contact YOUR insurance company.
Michelle: No, I don’t believe I do. See, the State of West Virginia dented my camper, and I think I’ll be filing my claim with the State of West Virginia so the State of West Virginia can pay for it.
Operator: [taken aback] Um, okay, um, well, here’s the number for the people who are mowing out there.
“I’m sure she fully expected me to just roll over. Typical. Anyway, so finally,” said Michelle, “I got the number and called that place and lo, it was the RIGHT number, so that redeemed her in my eyes a little. And these guys were so nice about the whole thing. The equipment supervisor apologized that he was 20 minutes away but said he’d come up there, and he sure did, along with some fella with a personality uncannily similar to Larry the Cable Guy.
“Seriously, it was uncanny. And he had come along ‘just for the ride,’ which made me miss working for state park maintenance. That’s what we’d have done, too.
“Anyway, so they took our information and were so very nice about it, apologized all over themselves for the situation, and told us that it being Wednesday they’d probably get at least two more calls that week for the same thing. They said we’d hear from the claims company the next week, and we were on our way.”
So how does Michelle really feel about the situation?
“They caught me on a good day. I figure if that’s the worst thing to happen to us on this vacation, then it was a very, very good vacation.”